NEW YORK—Fall sales of Asian contemporary art and Chinese 20th-century art in evening and day sales at Christie’s Hong Kong Nov. 27–30 brought in a total of HK$512.4million ($65.9million), up considerably from the HK$389.3million ($50.2million) total reported last fall. Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art brought in HK$56.7million ($7.3million) and Chinese modern paintings fetched HK$568million ($73million); Chinese classical paintings and calligraphy brought in HK$100.9million ($13million). In all, the fine-art sales totaled HK$1.13 billion ($146.5 million).
The evening sale of contemporary and 20th-century Chinese art on Nov. 27 totaled HK$281.2million ($36.2million). It was 84 percent sold by lot, 78 percent by value. Among the records was a new auction high for a work by Sanyu (1901–66). His oil on masonite Potted Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardinière, 1950s, sold for HK$53.3million ($6.9million) on an unpublished estimate of HK$35million/55million. A record was also set for a work by Mao Xuhui (b. 1956), when his triptych ’92 Paternalism, 1992(3), was bought by a private European collector for HK$11.9million ($1.5million), twice the estimate of $HK3 million/5million.
Eric Chang, Christie’s international director of Asian contemporary art and Chinese 20th-century art, reported “solid demand for both categories of art with seven records achieved for works by artists across a broad spectrum of Chinese artists.” In addition to the artist records for Sanyu and Mao, new records were also set for work by Chinese artists Yee Bon, Wang Guangyi, Zhan Wang, and Japanese artists Aya Takano and Tatsuo Miyajima. Chang added, “The market for Chinese 20th-century and contemporary art continues to be steady and healthy and Asian buying remains strong.”
Leading the Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th-century day sale was A Man in Melancholy, 1990, an oil by Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), which sold for HK$10.3 million ($1.3 million), four times the estimate of HK$1.6million/2.4million).
Works by Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, b. 1920) remain among the most sought-after by collectors, with all of his works in this sale fetching prices above their high estimates. The Meeting Hall, 1993, a painting by Liu Dahong (b. 1962), set a new record of HK$2.8million ($359,649), more than ten times the HK$180,000/260,000estimate. Landscape, 2004, by Liu Wei (b. 1965) sold for HK$3.98million ($514,893) against an estimate of HK$650,000/750,000.
The auction of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art was 87 percent sold by lot, and 98 percent by value. The total was HK$56.7million ($7.3million). The top lot was Balinesische Legende (Balinese Legend), 1929, an oil on canvas by Walter Spies (1895–1942), which sold for HK$16.9million ($2.17million) against an unpublished estimate of HK$16million. Another painting that brought a “significant market response” from both private collectors and institutions was Wounded Lion, an oil by Indonesian artist Raden Saleh (ca. 1807–80), which sold for HK$6.6 million ($852,624) on an estimate of HK$6 million/8 million and underscored the strong prices for historically important modern works.
Ruoh-Ling Keong, Christie’s head of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, said the sale total of HK$56.7million represented “almost a 70 percent increase over the same sale last year. With average prices roughly in line with those seen at the height of the market, the market for the finest works of art from Southeast Asia is indeed healthy and robust.”
In the contemporary section, Trombone, 2010, a painting by I. Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973), fetched HK$2.7million ($344,207) on an estimate of HK$800,000/1.4 million, and Membayang (Imagining), 2006, a two-part acrylic on canvas by Handiwirman Saputra, (b. 1975) sold to an Asian private buyer for HK$1.22million ($157,869) against an estimate of HK$800,000/1.2million.
Keong added, “The contemporary section saw global collectors responding in earnest to not only works from the established rock stars of the category, including I. Nyoman Masriadi and Handiwirman Saputra, but also those from newer artists.”
Christie’s auction of Chinese modern paintings was 96 percent sold by lot, and 97 percent by value, realizing a total of HK$568million ($73million). Works by Fu Baoshi, Zhang Daqian, Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi were much sought after. The Song of the Pipa Player, 1945, a mounted and framed scroll by Fu (1904–65), sold for HK$70million ($9million), a new auction record for the artist, on an estimate of HK$20million/40million. Temple at the Mountain Peak, a hanging scroll by Zhang (1899–1983), sold for HK$61.14million ($7.9million) against an estimate of HK$4million/6million.
Ben Kong, international specialist head of Chinese paintings at Christie’s Hong Kong, said the season’s “excellent results reflect a 92 percent increase from last year’s autumn sale, while the average lot value also increased by 42 percent compared to last year. Mainland Chinese buyers are a clear force driving this category, taking nine out of the top ten lots in our Chinese classical paintings sale.”
Sales of Chinese classical paintings and calligraphy totaled HK$100.9million ($13million). The top lot was Mynah, Poem in Running Script Calligraphy (a pair of album leaves mounted as a hanging scroll) by Bada Shanren (1626–1705), which sold for HK$11.3million ($1.5million) against an estimate of HK$1.2 million/1.5 million. A number of other artists, including Ni Yuanlu, Hua Yan and Lan Ying also brought strong prices that surpassed estimates.